|Father Frans Van der Lugt: April 10. 1938---April 7, 2014|
Murdered for Loving Jesus and Loving his neighbor
Monday, April 7, 2014, was probably just another day for most of us. Creatures of habit, we got up and, more than likely, went through the same repetitive routine from brushing our teeth, showering, putting the coffee on, getting dressed and doing the things we do in what ever order that is unique to each of us. Then we lived the rest of our day doing the same usual things we always do. Of course there were those who did not have an ordinary, mundane day. Some would get up and never make it to the next day. Father Frans Van der Lugt, 75, was one of them. And he did not die due to age or illness. He was brutally beaten and then shot to death with two bullets to the head. Why? Because he loved Jesus and was doing what Jesus asked of His followers; he had been loving his neighbors.
Father Frans had lived in Syria for 50 years. In fact, he had been "loving his neighbors" very close to where Jesus actually lived and died and rose again. A Jesuit priest, he had devoted his life to helping those in need especially the "young people with mental health problems". He never asked for anything for himself just for the Christians and Muslims he was trying to assist with food and medicine. His Al-Ard Center, a community center and farm he started in 1980, was aimed to foster dialog between people of different faiths. Consequently, there were many in Syria who loved this man, this follower of the Christ. It followed that there were also those who hated him.
In February, Father Van der Lugt appealed to the people of the world via YouTube for help for the people in Homs, the city where his AL-Ard Center was located. His people were suffering from hunger and mental anguish resulting from the constant shelling and bombing. The United Nations mediated a truce and food and water were brought in. Then 1400 people were allowed to leave. A city which once had a Christian population of over 60,000 was now down to a few dozen. The people remaining wanted Father Frans to leave. He refused. He had said, "The Syrian people have given me so much, so much kindness, inspiration and everything they have. If the Syrian people are suffering now, I want to share their pain and their difficulties."
On Monday, April 7, as most of us were doing our 'regular' thing, unidentified assailants stormed into Father Frans monastery where he was tending to the few Christians left in the city. The 75-year old priest was savagely beaten by masked cowards before being executed with two bullets to his head. Father Frans Van der Lugt has now joined the ranks of martyred Catholic/Christians and I have no doubt that one day he will be declared a saint. We pray for the soul of good Father Frans and ask him to pray for all of us.